The United Nations warned on Monday that outbreaks of water-borne diseases posed a major threat to the more than three million children affected by Pakistan's devastating floods.
AFP -The United Nations warned Monday that up to 3.5 million children were at risk from water-borne diseases in flood-hit Pakistan and said it was bracing to deal with thousands of potential cholera cases.
Fresh rains threaten further anguish for millions of people that have been affected by Pakistan's worst floods for 80 years and UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged the world to speed up international aid urgently.
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Described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, the three-week disaster has affected 20 million people, and has destroyed crops, infrastructure, towns and villages, according to the Paksitani government.
The United Nations has launched an aid appeal for 460 million dollars, but charities say the response has been sluggish and flood survivors on the ground have lashed out against the weak civilian government for failing to help.
Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), feared that Pakistan was on the brink of a "second wave of death" unless more donor funds materialised.
"Up to 3.5 million children are at high risk of deadly water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea-related, such as watery diarrhoea and dysentery," he said, estimating the total number at risk from such diseases at six million.
Typhoid, hepatitis A and E are also concerns, he said.
"WHO (World Health Organisation) is preparing to assist up to 140,000 people in case there is any cholera, but the government has not notified us of any confirmed cases," the spokesman told AFP.
"We fear we're getting close to the start of seeing a second wave of death if not enough money comes through, due to water-borne diseases along with lack of clean water and food shortages," he said.
Cholera is endemic in Pakistan and the risk of outbreaks increases with flooding, but the government has so far confirmed no cases publicly.
One charity worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that several flood survivors had already died of the disease.
The United Nations estimates that 1,600 people have died in the floods, while the government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.
Several hundred people on Monday blocked the main highway linking the breadbasket of Punjab province to the financial capital Karachi, calling for assistance and holding up traffic for more than an hour, witnesses said.
"We have no food and no shelter. We need immediate help," shouted the protesters, who included women and children.
The nuclear-armed country of 167 million people is on the frontline of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda. Western governments have traced overseas terror plots back to Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps in the lawless tribal mountains.
Intermittent rain fell overnight and early Monday in Sukkur and other parts of Sindh, turning refugee camps into mud and increasing the misery of survivors and keeping alive fears of further breaches in the Indus river and canals.
The bad weather was also hampering relief efforts, officials said.
Bibi Momal, 35, sat in dirty clothes and broken shoes on a roadside waiting for relief, weak and exhausted.
"We have no tents. We spent the night in the rain. Our children are hungry and sick. We came here for relief but we got nothing."
A shocked Ban became the first world leader to visit the flood-affected areas at the weekend, saying he would never forget the "heart wrenching" scenes of destruction and suffering that he witnessed.
"I'm here to urge the world to step up their generous support for Pakistan," he told a news conference with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
Ban said one-fifth of the country had been ravaged and officials warned that, in the long term, billions of dollars will be needed as villages, businesses, crops and infrastructure have been wiped out.
Pakistan's weak civilian government has appealed to the global community to help it deal with a humanitarian crisis compared by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to the one which followed the sub-continent's partition in 1947.
"This is a long-term affair," Zardari said. "We have to consider and keep it in mind that for two years we have to give them crops, fertilisers, seeds, and look after them and feed them to take them to where they were."
Date created : 2010-08-16